With their 2013 album Blur the Line, Nashville rock band Those Darlins have honed their unique sound and set out to explore the complex, contradictory nature of themselves as individuals and as a band. Simultaneously tough and seductive, Blur the Line is loaded with tracks that combine heavy rhythms and distorted guitars with captivating lyrics and ear-candy harmonies.
Originally founded in 2006 by Jessi Zazu, Nikki Kvarnes, and Kelley Anderson, Those Darlins got their start by covering Carter family songs with traditional southern instruments and released their first album, the self-titled Those Darlins, in 2009. After the tour to support their debut, drummer Linwood Regensburg joined the band as an official member, and in 2011, the group recorded their next album, Screws Get Loose, which saw the band adopt more of an aggressive, garage rock sound.
Founding member Kelley Anderson left Those Darlins in 2012 to pursue other projects, and was replaced by bassist Adrian Barrera. Blur the Line was released in October of 2013 to critical acclaim. The band is currently touring North America in support of the album, and recently played at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.
A list of upcoming tour dates can be found at www.thosedarlins.com.
What are your respective musical backgrounds and creative influences?
Jessi: I grew up in a musical family, and my grandfather started teaching me to play guitar when I was nine years old. He focused on teaching me his area of expertise, which was mostly traditional country and gospel. At that time, I preferred more of the music my parents were listening to at home… CCR, Neil Young, the Beatles Rubber Soul, etc. Later on I began to appreciate the early country stuff a lot more, getting into the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and Hank Williams, Sr.
In high school, I fell in love with the ’70s NY punk scene, with bands like the Ramones, Television, and Patti Smith Group. At the same time I was very fond of the ’60s girl group sound and listened to a lot of Phil Spector productions, Shirelles, and Shangri Las.
In general, I’ve always been someone who is endlessly searching for new music, and my range of musical influences has just kept growing and growing. These days I have actually been listening to a lot of classical music.
As far as general creative influences, I’ve drawn inspiration from all different aspects of life. A lot of the time my songs come out of some sort of dysfunction or uncomfortable situation.
What’s your songwriting process? Has it changed over the years?
Jessi: It really depends on the song. These days I like to journal a lot and then see if something pops out of there. When I have some quiet time, I mess around on the guitar until I come up with a melody or chord progression I like, then I look back through my notebook to see if anything fits. It doesn’t always happen that way, though; sometimes an idea will just come into my head when I least expect it.
How does a lineup change — such as the one you went through when Kelley Anderson left the band and Adrian Barrera joined — affect a band such as yours? Is that something that, in a way, can be beneficial in terms of forcing your sound to evolve?
Jessi: You know, I can’t say it isn’t difficult, but there is definitely an element of excitement when starting to work with someone new. You never know what they might be able to bring to the table creatively or energy wise.
Blur the Line has a more serious, mature sound than previous albums, and you’ve said elsewhere that the recording of that album was the first time you had truly worked hard in the studio. Prior to Blur the Line, did you feel respected as musicians? Did that sort of thing matter to you?
Jessi: If I said that, I didn’t mean it in that way. We definitely worked hard on our first two albums, because making an album is not an easy feat and it takes hard work regardless. I think I meant that on Blur the Line we worked harder than ever before. We certainly spent the most time on it.
As far as being respected as musicians before BTL, I will say by some people yes, and by some people no. I think there was a greater amount of respect for us as musicians cultivated by Blur the Line, but I can’t say it’s across the board. It is very gratifying when people compliment our musicianship or our songwriting, and that matters to me. It feels really good to know that the time and energy we have put into this project is noticed and appreciated. On the other hand, if there are people who don’t respect our style or sound or just flat out don’t like us, that’s fine with me. They just don’t have to listen to our music.
What goes through your mind before you walk out on stage, and how do you unwind after a show?
Jessi: I’m usually pretty focused right before I go on. I am thinking about if I have a pick, if my pedals are set right for the first song, if i need a drink of water, etc. Just trying to make sure that everything is ready to go. After the show I usually go straight to the merch booth and try to talk to people in the audience, and I try to stay there until it’s time to settle up and load out. My unwind finally comes once we get back to the hotel or friends house we are staying at. I like to have a snack and take a shower, then I’m finally relaxed.
What was the most memorable part of playing at SXSW?
Jessi: Ummmmm… I can’t remember? This SX was a hectic one, and I’m not sure what part was best. I really enjoyed the whole thing. I felt like all of our shows were really amped up and we got into a nice groove. Peelander (Z) fest was pretty fun, I love those guys with all my heart.
Perhaps along those same lines (or maybe not), what’s the best crowd you’ve ever played in front of?
Jessi: That question is literally impossible to answer. We have played in front of so many awesome crowds that it would be an injustice to name one above the other. I will say that the crowd at Savannah Stopover would be included in my favorite audiences of all time list if I ever made one.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of being on the road for an extended period of time?
Jessi: The best part, hands down, is playing the shows. Some other positive aspects are the random adventures that happen, the fact that your normal life responsibilities are put on hold and you only really have one main objective every day, which is to play a good show. It’s also great seeing friends and family all over, and getting to enjoy different cities and all that.
Down sides are definitely road food, bed bugs, exhaustion, not getting enough alone time, and having a difficult time working on anything other than playing shows, if you need or want to. And getting sick on the road is just the worst. But you can always hope for the best! Its really just luck of the draw sometimes.
When zig-zagging across the country, what is your go-to snack food?
Jessi: I’m a big apple and peanut butter fan. I also love almonds.
When preparing to play a show such as Bonnaroo, how is your approach different from that of a smaller show?
Jessi: It’s not that different really, at this point we just kinda get up there and do our thing.